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lionel trains  collecting lionel and lionel-like trains this amazing locomotive is a standard-gauge liberty lines 600e 2-6-4 locomotive, almost 36 inches long! perhaps 100 were made, by tca member harlan creswell of seattle, wa. it is an extended version of the lionel 400e locomotive made in the 1930s. this locomotive rivals the one-of-a-kind lionel super-381e which is on display at the williamsport, pa historical society museum. let's first answer the most often asked question: yes! your lionel trains in the attic or basement are definitely worth something if you have taken good care of them. don't throw them out or sell them for $10 a box at a garage sale! however, remember that lionel trains left unwrapped in a damp basement for 20 years are not going to be worth very much at all! value is based on condition (what else is new!?), so the value of lionel trains depends upon how well they were taken care of, and how well they have been stored. greenberg publishing, and t&m productions (1-800-892-2822) have both produced very detailed price and reference books for all types of lionel trains. lionel trains are still easily available, either new or used. millions were made in the 1940s and 1950s especially, and most families took good care of their trains. you can still buy your kids a nice lionel train set for christmas! but prices are very high both for the "original" lionel trains, and for the new trains being produced by lionel of michigan (read on!). the famous lionel train company is still in business. but it's not surprising that many people might think the company must have gone bankrupt years ago, because lionel trains are no longer found in most toy stores and toy departments of large stores, nor hardware and variety stores such as western auto. this famous company, which held a dominant lead in the toy train business from the 1920s to the 1960s, almost went out of business in 1969, due in part to the public's own nearly total disinterest in train travel. what a been a part of daily life up to 1960 quickly ended, and kids no longer had much interest in a toy which reflected a nearly defunct mode of public transportation. the company also seemed to trade quality for profits starting around 1960, and this became increasing evident in the trains they made. around 1970, the trademark and train manufacturing equipment of lionel were purchased by general mills fundimensions group, which moved the factory from new jersey to mt. clemens, michigan. incredibly, the lionel corporation of new york continued on, without its train business, operating a line of discount toy stores called lionel kiddie city, until the late 1980s when the company finally went out of business. thus, there were actually two lionel companies: the original lionel without its trains, and the "new" lionel owned by general mills. but the new lionel continued to make trains that lacked the quality and detail of the "golden era" of lionel trains, so familiar to kids in the 1940s and 1950s. towards the late 1970s, the company seemed to get its act together, and finally produced some brand new high quality train sets which were well received by collectors. but the large market share had been permanently lost: now lionel trains could only be found in a small number of hobby and trains specialty shops, and rarely did the store have a full stock of trains with a nice layout to demonstrate them. for the most part, the trains were now sold by large mail order dealers, and the customer was inevitably a train collector, not joe q. public. around 1986, michigan businessman richard kughn bought lionel from general mills, and made them a fully independent company named lionel trains inc. immediately, the quality of the train sets seemed to improve even more, and kughn began to revive many famous train sets, cars and engines, including the large standard gauge trains which it had stopped making in 1938. kughn seemed to get the company on the right track, pardon the pun, but soon faced very stiff competition from a young man, mike wolf, who as a boy of 13 was assembling lionel train replicas made by the williams company of columbia, md !! mike eventually bought some of the molds and equipment from williams, and struck out on his own making beautiful standard gauge replicas of the 1930s lionel trains. he then aggressively began to make replicas of the more popular "o" gauge lionel trains, arguably with more detailed features, at lower prices than lionel. his company mike's train house now is a very serious competitior to lionel.  so today, lionel is "back in business" making beautiful trains, but it is now facing stiff competition from a number of very successful rivals such as williams, mike's train house, third rail and weaver. in september 1995, kughn decided to sell lionel to a group of new york investors, including rock singer neil young. perhaps kughn could see the handwriting on the wall and left while the going was good? only time will tell how well lionel survives this next transition. many collectors and lionel fans are very upset that lionel has closed its us factory, and like mike's train house, they will have their trains manufactured in the far east. but there has never been an era with more trains to collect than right now. prices remain fairly high, and quality is getting better. if you love lionel trains, you'll enjoy reading about them in kalmbach publication's classic toy trains magazine. it contains beautiful color pictures of both classic lionel trains and magnificent collections, as well as photos and reviews of new lionel train products. there are many ads from national mail order lionel dealers who offer excellent prices on both new and older lionel trains. plus there's a complete list of stores with lionel trains! check out kalmbach's own home page for classic toys trains magazine and then come back here for more neat information!  another wonderful site for train collectors of all gauges is thor trains. you will find information concerning all gauges, layouts, lots of lionel information too. the train collectors association is a national lionel train collectors organization, devoted to collecting trains. tca holds many local and national "meets" where members (only!) can buy and sell lionel, american flyer, marx, and other "tin plate" large scale trains. tca is primarily oriented towards tin-plate "lionel" trains of o and standard gauge sizes. while you will in fact find some american flyer, ho, s and g gauge trains at tca meets, you will find that most members collect genuine lionel and lionel-like o and standard gauge trains. for those of you here in the east, the tca spring and fall meets at the york county fairgrounds at york, pa are an unbelievable experience for train collectors. held in mid-april and mid-october each year, and attended by thousands of tca members from all over the country, the york meets are a mind-boggling experience for any lionel enthusiast. you will spend the entire day (always a friday), from 9am until 6pm, going from building to building looking at tens of thousands of lionel trains for sale. and when i say "lionel," i also mean to include any other lionel-like trains manufactured by williams, mike's train house, weaver, k-line, and third rail. once bitten by the "york-meet bug" (which is a quasi-religious experience for a hard-core train collector), you will want to return again and again. rock star neil young, now a part-owner of lionel trains inc., usually attends the york meets and can sometimes be found at the lionel display tent demonstrating his new lionel wireless train control system! he comes in a huge "greyhound" style bus, that looks like an aluminum passenger car from the lionel series in the early 1950s. although the meet runs both friday and saturday, friday is the main event. the city of york comes to a halt as thousands of members jam the roads getting to the fairgrounds early friday morning! motels are sold out months in advance, and you are wise to reserve for the next meet as you check out!  if you can't find a room in york, try lancaster, hanover, gettysburg or harrisburg for alternate accomodations! much to the chagrin of tca headquarters, unofficial trading begins early in the week, and enterprising individuals operate their own train shows tuesday through thursday at area motels such as the holiday inn and the billy budd inn. on nice days you will find tents and open-air markets filled with lionel trains. these early events of course are open to the general public. it leads one to wonder if "the good stuff" is being sold off earlier than friday? the official york meet on friday and saturday is open only to tca members, and all trains must be clearly priced and properly identified as a restored item if it has in fact been restored or repainted. perhaps you take your chances at the unofficial meets earlier in the week? check out other info about the york and lancaster area before you attend the york meet if you would like to become a member of tca, write to the national headquarters of tca at: the tca national headquarters box 248 paradise lane lancaster, pa 17579 in order to preserve the integrity of the tca membership, new members are required to be vouched for by two current tca members. the national headquarters can assist you in locating tca members in your area. there are two other lionel collector associations. lcca is the lionel collectors club of american, and it is the "official" club sponsored by lionel trains inc. they have sponsored factory tours in recent years as part of their annual meet. members receive a newsletter called the lion roars containing news about upcoming products and events relating to lionel. ttos is the toy train operating society. check out their ttos home page. if you would like to become a member of tca, write to the national headquarters of tca at: the tca national headquarters box 248 lancaster, pa 17529 return to previous page
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